What's vegan cheese?

Real Vegan Cheese is not a cheese substitute! It all starts with regular old yeast. Through synthetic biology, we engineer our yeast to become milk-protein factories. Our milk proteins are then combined with water and vegan oil to make vegan milk, which is ultimately converted into Real Vegan Cheese through standard cheese-making processes - just like cheese made from cow or goat milk!

Where does the milk protein DNA come from?

None of Real Vegan Cheese's genes have been inside an animal: human, cow, or otherwise. To create our proteins, we study animal genomes, choose milk-protein genetic sequences, and synthesize those genes. The genes are then temporarily inserted into yeast and produced using the cellular machinery of yeast. The genes are yeast-optimized and, though they are inspired by animals, have never been inside an animal!   Same proteins. Different genes.

Why Real Vegan Cheese?


  • We believe this project has the ability to address future food scarcity concerns. Yeast are renewable and sustainable.
  • We believe that vegans have rights to nutritious cheese too!
  • We believe that the days of using cows as food production machines is environmentally irresponsible.
  • This project will address future food scarcity concerns, as yeast are renewable and the processes to cheese are nearly limitless.
  • Our process far is more sustainable than standard cheese-making processes.

What are the social implications of your work?

We live in an unsustainable world. The cheese we eat today is produced by commercial dairy cows which, though they produce delicious milk and cheese, have an exceptionally large carbon footprint. Even the U.S. Food and Agriculture Organization admits that the world's 1.5 billion cows emit dozens of polluting gases, including terrifyingly large amounts of methane, a leading contributor to global warming! By creating an alternative pathway to cheese, we help the environment, increase access to tasty and healthy food, and support people who have already committed themselves to having a smaller carbon footprint while here on Earth.



Real Vegan Cheese will not contain any GMOs. The genetically engineered yeast is only used to produce milk protein. The yeast itself stays behind, while only the milk proteins become part of the cheese.


The yeast will be contained in bioreactors, not grown freely in the environment. Fortunately, this means that we can control the waste output from our process with more precision. Additionally, the strains of yeast will be engineered to prevent them from growing outside of the intended bioreactors. This will prevent environmental contamination and contamination of the products of nearby yeast-farmers (brewers and bakers).

Open Source

All information is published under free-culture licenses (e.g. Creative Commons). Any and all patentable material is put in the public domain; and all research is published via our wiki and mailing list as it is generated.


Real Vegan Cheese is made possible by the combined efforts of our team of biohackers and citizen scientists working out of two open community labs in the San Francisco Bay Area: Counter Culture Labs in Oakland, CA and BioCurious in Sunnyvale, CA. The Real Vegan Cheese project is open to collaborators of all skill levels and from all walks of life. In 2014, we entered in the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, winning a gold medal and best of track trophy - unprecedented achievements for a community-based team. We are excited to be part of a larger global community consisting of students and biohackers from over 30 countries!

Meet the Team

A few of the citizen scientist, organizers, artists, and artisans working to make real vegan cheese.

Get involved and become part of the team.

Press Kit

GivingTuesday 2018 Real Vegan Cheese Press Release

Selected images

for press inquiries, please contact us at press@realvegancheese.org

Ask a Biohacker

Thank you!

A heartfelt Thank You to all of our IndieGoGo supporters! At the $25 "Ask A Biohacker" level, contributors were able to send us a question about the project and we promised to post video responses! Well, here they are!

Question #1

Question #2

Question #3

Question #4

Question #5

Question #6